Separation Anxiety

I'm leaving for Nashville tomorrow, and I don't want to go. Holiday-travels-airport-1199-l

I do really, because I'm the "book doctor" at Room to Write and there are going to be a dozen fabulous writers there.  And I'm going to see lots of friends.  Stay on the beautiful Scarritt Bennett campus and then with my friend Candace.  Get a lot of writing done.

But at the moment, everything is going wrong and I don't want to go.

When I leave Nashville for Portland next week, I won't want to leave Nashville.

I've gotten used to this push and pull of emotion before I leave for a trip.  It always happens.  I think of all the reasons I shouldn't go and long just to be at home.  Which is really just a silly illusion because I adore going to Nashville for all the above reasons.

So, its separation anxiety.  And the only thing there is to do about it is live through it.

Like so many things in life.  And writing, come to think of it.  Rejection comes to mind.

What do you get anxious over, either in writing or in life?


The Brain Dump

I'm just back from a road trip that knocked my socks off. 

I drove, with two friends, to a remote ranch in southeastern Oregon, near Steens Mountain.  (The above photo was taken on the gravel road up to the summit if said mountain.  The Aspens were peaking and unbelievably gorgeous.)  This part of Oregon is very different from the west side, which is lush and green.  Instead, we were in high desert country, basin and range, where wild mustangs still roam and we saw at least 30 different kinds of birds, including a great horned owl, whooping cranes, a bald eagle, grebes, and mountain bluebirds.

Seeing as how we were on a ranch, there were also cows:

Excuse the sideways image, I don't know why it is loading that way.  At any rate, this is the cattle looking in the front door of the ranch house.  Crane your neck to the left and note the gate in the background, which, being city girls, it didn't occur to us to close.  So we had a lot of fun herding the cattle out from the backyard and back into the front pasture.  They went every which way, over the fence, leaving fur behind, and under it, breaking down a couple rails along the way.  One even went under barbed wire.

We climbed to the top of the afore-mentioned Steens Mountain:

From where I'm pretty sure you can see Idaho and Nevada in the distance, hundreds of miles away.  It was colder than a witch's you-know-what up there, and windy as hell.  But spectacular.  Oh, and all these years as an Oregonian, I thought it was Steens Mountains, plural, as in a mountain range.  But it is one very long mountain, a fault-block mountain which makes it so.

The idea was to write:

Which I did a wee bit of.  But mostly I was too busy inhaling the grand vistas, spotting birds, looking for wild mustangs, and meeting fabulously interesting people during dinner at the Hotel Diamond, which has been in operation since 1898.  Considering that its in a town with a population of 5 at the end of a road, its amazing and wonderful to me that the place is pretty much always booked up. 

By the way, the writer Ursula Le Guin stays at the same ranch house we did every year with her husband, and is so inspired about the place she just wrote a book about it, which you can buy here.  And, in another by the way, a friend and I are planning a writing retreat for next year that we've been scouting locations for–and this might just be the place.  So stay tuned for more details about that.

When I did have a small amount of time and sat down in the grass by Benson Pond to scribble away, I intended to work on something I've wanted to get done for a long time–a new freebie to entice people to sign up for my newsletter.  Its going to be a really good one, and I'm excited about working on it.  But I found I couldn't.  Why?  Because I had too much new stuff in my mind to focus.  That day by the pond I wrote about what I had seen.  And even since I've been home, I've still been writing and processing. 

I've been engaging in a brain dump, getting every new experience and vista out of my head an onto the page, clearing the way to go back to my other work.  And now, after journaling and blogging about it, I'm starting to feel clear enough to write the freebie.  So sometimes it is important just to allow yourself to do a brain dump.

What about you? How do you process new experiences?

Stranded, or Withholding Judgment


Currently, I am temporarily residing in the lovely and fast-growing city of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, home of Middle Tennessee State University, which is the home of the writing program I co-direct, the Writer's Loft.  (Our fall workshops and orientation are next week and there are still a few spots left. You can come on Friday for the low cost of $50, and there will be workshops with Whitney Ferre and Kathy Rhodes. Check out the website for more info.)


I left Portland on Tuesday, expecting to arrive here that night.  Instead, I arrived on Wednesday night, after an unexpected stranding in Houston.  There was a hurricane, they said.  So they had to cancel flights. The weather looked like a lot of hot, steamy rain to me but what do I know?  I got the last room at the airport Marriott and barely slept all night, worried about my flights the next day, even though the bed was soft and bedbug-free (I checked) and the pillows plump and numerous.


Next morning, bright and early, I landed on a flight to Newark.  From there, I'd catch my connection to Nashville.  Never mind that it makes absolutely no sense to fly all the way across the country from one coast to the other and then double back again.  But, this turned out to be the best part of my adventure, even though I thought that hanging out in the airport bar with a bunch of stranded travelers would be.  (Can I just say that Mad Men are alive and well in this millennium?  In the time I drank two glasses of wine, the businessmen sitting beside me at the bar downed three mixed drinks and three glasses of wine.  Gee-zus.) Because upon hearing that I was a writer, the friendly flight attendant invited me to join him in the back of the plane.  I sat on the jump seat as he regaled me with ideas for screenplays, jokes, and classic lines of dialogue from movies.  This made up for the fact that there were no blankets and it was freezing (said friendly flight attendant made the pilots turn up the heat) and that an Angry Bald Guy who punched the overhead compartment in his fury was sitting next to me.

My point to this story? Well, as the title hints, it is that we often shut ourselves down to interesting adventures and experiences because we're so worried and judgmental.  Upon hearing that my flight had been cancelled, my first thoughts were dread and fear.  Where would I stay?  What if there weren't any rooms?  What if I really couldn't make it to Nashville until Thursday, as they initially told me?  How would I cope without my suitcase?  I was already pre-judging my experience before I'd even started to experience it.  So I made a conscious effort to let all that go, and just hang in there and go with the flow.  And it worked out great.  I hung out in the bar, met an interesting fellow writer, saw the Manhattan skyline from the Newark airport, and made it to Nashville in only minorly stinky clothes.  In short, I had an adventure.  And I loved every minute of it.

And now here I am in Murfreesboro.   And I'm determined to celebrate and enjoy whatever comes my way, good or bad, without pre-judging.  After all, life's an adventure.

What do you pre-judge?  Um, your writing, perhaps?  I do that, too.  But that's a post for another day.

Photo credits: airplane by Richard_B, courtesy of MorgueFile, Marriott Houston from TripAdvisor, screaming man, Brbankston from Everystockphoto, downtown Murfreesboro from Pollinator, via Wikipedia.

Friday Review: Female Nomad and Friends

Female Nomad and Friends:

Tales of Breaking Free and Breaking Bread Around the World

by Rita Golden Gelman

I leaped at the chance to review this book because I was familiar with Gelman's first book, Tales of a Female Nomad and was happy to hear she'd written another one.  To understand the premise of the second book, you need to know a little about the first book (though you certainly don't have to read the first to appreciate the second).

At the age of 48, on the verge of a divorce, Gelman, who at the time led quite the privileged Hollywood-style life, decided to chuck it all and begin traveling.  Now, she lives all over the world, carrying what she needs with her, living serendipitously.  As she puts it, "In 1987 I opened my life to otherness; it became addictive.  I still have no fixed address and hardly any possessions."

And how does she manage to finance this lifestyle?  Through writing children's books.  Her first adult book, which detailed her adventures, also did well.  Well enough that readers clamored for more.  But Gelman didn't really want to write another book, she was too busy having fun.  Part of that fun included trying new and different things and she wanted no part of writing a sequel.  Still, readers clamored.

And thus Female Nomad and Friends was born.  Gelman hit on the idea of using the many stories that readers, inspired by her adventures, had emailed her.  Plus she decided to add recipes. So the resulting anthology has 41 stories and 32 recipes, all of an international bent.  Perhaps the best part of it all is that evey single penny of the proceeds from this book goes to Gelman's current pet project, which is funding vocational educations for high school graduates from the slums of New Delhi. 

For that reason alone you should buy this book.  But you'll also want to buy it for the stories and the recipes.  Its the kind of book that you can have on your bedside table and read one a night, in order if you are that type of person.  Or you can do what I did, which is to pick it up, close my eyes, and choose a story at random until I had read them all.  It is much more fun that way.

Here's a sampler of the stories you'll find in the book:

Breakfast in Malaca, by Wendy Lewis, about a delicious–and surprising–meal in Malaysia.

Chapati Love Remembered, by Jean Allen, probably my favorite story in the whole book, about making chaptis–and love.

Thanksgiving: A Different Perspective, by Ana Maria Bradley, in which a foreign exchange student comes to appreciate an American holiday.

And here's a taste of some of the recipes:

Latvian Piragi

Ginger-Cumin Roasted Chicken (I'm trying this one for sure)

Charred Sugar-Crusted Salmon

Vietnamese Soft Spring Rolls

Mousse au Chocolat Truffee

And many more…

Reading Gelman's story, and the many stories in the anthology, has made me ponder if I could do the same as her–live without a home base anywhere.  Now, I love to travel and actually wish I could do more of it.  But somehow I don't think I could live without a permanent address.  I love Gelman's lifestyle and appreciate that for her, it is all about being open to the other and making connections throughout the world.  But I want my own little house to come home to after I've been away–my pets, my art, my funny little things.

What about everyone else?  Could you travel the world without a permanent home?

While you ponder the answer to that question, here's a bit more information about Gelman and the book:

Rita Golden Gelman is the author of Tales of a Female Nomad and more than seventy children’s books, including More Spaghetti, I Say!, a staple in every first grade classroom. As a nomad, Rita has no permanent address.  She is currently involved in an initiative called Let’s Get Global, a project of US Servas, Inc, a national movement deigned to bring the gap year to the United States. Learn more at:

We invite you to join us on the Female Nomad and Friends virtual tour. The full schedule can be seen at You can learn much more about Rita Golden Gelman and her work on her website –

Traveling Down A Different Road

We went to the beach for a night this past weekend.

But it was to a different cabin in a different town than we've ever stayed at before.  We traveled down a different highway, went to different beaches, ate at different restaurants, saw different things.  All of this was quite by accident, but it was also quite wonderful.

And man oh man, did it get my creative juices flowing.

I'm lucky to live in Portland, Oregon which is about an hour from the coast.  This is a good thing, yes, but it also tends to make me complacent.  I live so very close to the Pacific, and yet I can go months or longer without visiting–when it is a quick hour drive away.  Last week I started jonesing for the ocean.  Big time.  I wanted just to see it, to hear seagulls, to smell the sea air.  I wanted to feel the sand beneath my feet.  Needed the sensory experience of the sea.  

And yet, the upcoming weekend was Memorial Day.  We could only go one night because of obligations on Friday and Saturday night (the Eagles concert!).  What were the odds of getting a reservation for one night?  None, even in this recessionary time.  Enter my new son-in-law, who offered up the use of his family's cabin in one of the small fishing towns that dot Tillamook Bay.

And thus beginneth the different trip to the beach.  A drive down the Wilson River Highway through lush, green, rainy woods where woodsmoke and mist hung low to the ground and the river burbled along next to the highway.  The cabin on the hillside above the bay with a tiny view of it obscured the whole time by mist. A visit to Oceanside, where long ago a local family blasted a tunnel through the cliff to get to the beach on the other side.  I kid you not.  See the photo of the bunker-like entry below.  It was dark and moist and, well, creepy inside, but also irresistible. 

Oceanside2 And there was Netarts, home to Lex's Cool Stuff, the best second hand-store on the Oregon Coast, and a visit to the Cape Meares Lighthouse and then back to Tillamook to eat at a scrumptious Mexican restaurant which featured the best Margaritas this side of Texas and my friend George's blender.

The funny side note to all of this was that the weekend before, I was in Manhattan, as far as you can get on the eastern side of this continent.  And a mere week later, I was as far as you can go on the western side.  Ah, modern life.

But here's the best part:  I kept pulling my journal
CapeMearesLighthouse out and scribbling madly.  I wrote a bit about what I was seeing, but mostly I wrote other stuff.  Ideas for stories.  Ideas for blog posts and newsletter articles.  Ideas for the novel I'm sort of working on.  Ideas for life in general. Something about experiencing the new that just jogs the ideas out of the brain.  Maybe the new sensory input literally pushes out the old to make room it. 

So my new rule in life is do something new every day.  Drive a different way home from the grocery store, skip around the block, wear your hair in a crazy style, write something completely different.  I dunno, what do you think? Give me some new ideas for newness in the comments, if you please.  And, um, be nice.

The Adorable Purple Sandals

AdorablepurplesandalsYesterday I wrote a brief post about my trip to New York and how I bought an adorable pair of purple sandals.  Yet I failed to offer up a photo of said adorable purple sandals.  So, for those of you interested, check them out in the photo to the right. 

Cute, huh?  And surprisingly comfortable, too.  I wore them for hours on Saturday afternoon as we walked through Chinatown and all the wonderful shops of Canal Street, full of scarves and knock-off purses and cheap jewelry.  Heaven!  When we were children, our family drove to San Francisco every summer to visit relatives and there our favorite thing to do was visit Chinatown.  We'd come home laden with rice candy and woven thingies you stick your fingers in and dolls and little purses.  So it is no wonder that both my sister and I love the ticky tacky stores of Canal Street in Manhattan.

We also went into probably every shoe store in New York and studied what shoes women wore on the streets.  I am now ready to report what the latest in shoe fashion is: flats.  Zebra flats, beaded flats, red patent leather flats, plain black flats.  Except for the two skanky young women we saw one night, nobody is wearing heels.  You heard it here first.

The shoes and Canal Street were only a portion of the overall trip.  We met an interesting man from Nottingham, England, who owned a huge, thriving bakery, a woman from Portland who has already become a new friend, and a man from Virginia who told us where to buy beads in Hong Kong.  We saw museums and my Beloved Niece's dance classes and performances and visited friends and ate and drank and walked.  And walked.  And walked some more.

And I came home with my head swimming, full of images of Manhattan that go beyond shoes.

This is a good thing, because when my head is swimming it is alive and making new connections and carving new furrows or whatever that brain circuitry is called.  I'm coming up with new ideas for blog posts and articles and info products and books and stories.  Sometimes when you travel you get shoved out of your comfort zone.  Walking much farther than you normally would on feet that are sore, for instance.  Or staying in a hotel where the bathroom is down the hall.  And then you find out that you will not only survive such things, you'll enjoy them.  And suddenly you have a different view of the world.

Which is a wonderful thing for writers.  Or any kind of creative person in the world.  And aren't we all creative?

Anybody have a good travel story to share?  Or even some news about shoes?

Five Pairs of Shoes

I'm just off the plane from Manhattan (we got in an hour early–have you ever heard of such a thing?), where I walked so much I went through five pairs of shoes in as many days.  Okay, I did buy one pair of adorable purple sandals and wore them all through Chinatown, but considering the number of shoe stores we went in, its a miracle I only came home with one extra pair!

More tomorrow.  In the meantime, a few photos:


I love New York!

20 Aspects to New York City

Early tomorrow morning, I'm heading for New York City.  Five plus days in the Big Apple, fun times!  Here's the drill:

Who'll I'll see

1.  My sister, my traveling companion.

2.  My niece, student at Tisch NYU, the reason for our visit.

3.  My nephew (from a different sister) who I've not seen in years.

4.  Kate and Adam (child and husband of my friends Sue and Walt from Nashville).

Where we'll stay

5.  Hotel 17, in Greenwich Village.  Cool, huh?  I'm a little worried about the shared bathrooms, but life is an adventure.

What we'll do

6. Visit the Guggenheim.

7. Visit the Cooper Hewitt which is hosting the Design Triennial, which has exhibits of stitchery from Natalie Chanin, among other things, that I want to see.

8.  Visit the Cloisters, which I saw years ago and adored.  What's not to like about the unicorn tapestries?

9.  Visit MOMA, if we have time.  Both my sister and I have been there recently, so it is farther down the list.

10.  See the beloved niece's dance performances every night. 

11.  Hear jazz at the Village Vanguard.  I hope.

What I'm taking

12.  The Hole We're In by Gabrielle Zevin.  I'm three-quarters through it.

13.  The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  Can't wait to start it.

14.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by What's-his-name.  For my sister, I already read it.

15.  A very small knitting project with demon yarn in pretty colors.  Even if it is demonic.

16.  My journal.  Of course.

17.  My computer.  Tried my best to envision myself without it, but that didn't happen.

What I'm not taking

18.  The biography of Mark Twain I just bought.  This is killing me, but I'm trying to learn that I don't need to take five books with me when I leave for six days.

19.  My stitching project.  Too complicated for travel.

20.  Work.  Except for that one wee project I might work on while in the air. 

Lest you think my absence gives you an excuse not to read my blog, no such luck.  I've got posts pre-written and scheduled all week, including a fabulous guest post on Friday.  There are also cats involved.

And Also (Further Notes on Travel)

I'm in the Denver airport and I've been thinking about the post I wrote yesterday about traveling, a writer's travels to be exact.

In retrospect, I realized I wanted to write a paragraph about what I missed when I travel, but I didn't.  Why? Because I was rushed and had a million things to finish before my sister picked me up at the crack of dawn this morning.  That's another thing about traveling so much: it makes me feel as if I'm always in a rush.

And then I don't have time to do things I want to do, because I'm so often preparing for a trip, giving a workshop, responsibilty for a weekend orientation, meeting with ghostwriting clients, etc.  For instance, I've been organizing my office for months now.  Every time I start to make some progress on it, a new trip looms and I get pulled away to get ready.

Back to the opening sentiment.  Here are things I miss when I travel:

My cats

Sunday suppers with my family

American Idol (there's no TV where I'm staying)


Fires in the fireplace

Oregon rain

I'm sure if I thought about it longer I'd come up with more.  

And yet.  I'm reading reports on the Haiti earthquake as I wend my way across the country and it is just horrendous.  I am so damn lucky–we all of us are, anyone who has time to read this blog and worry about writing.  Odds are good we have roofs over our heads, and enough food to eat, and a nice hot shower (to say nothing of a nice hot fireplace).  Yesterday I had the utter luxury of spending the morning shopping and worrying about what I was going to wear for the workshop.

I am so damn lucky.  I love my life.  Home will wait.  I love traveling.  Lord, don't let me forget this.

***If you want to donate to the earthquake relief fund, go here to an excellent compendium on the Huffington Post.  I planned to do a round-up myself, but I'm running out of time before I board the plane to Nashville.

A Writer’s Travels

I'm leaving again tomorrow, this time for Nashville.  Night-104212-m

I travel a lot, sometimes a lot lot.  The last six months I have traveled a lot lot.  In August I was in LA, September in Nashville, October in New Mexico (a real vacation, who knew people did that?), November in LA again and December in Nashville.  That was not so very long ago, and now I'm heading back.

I have good reason to go, and I'm excited about the trip.  First up is the Writer's Loft orientation, a two-day affair for writers.  I'll be presenting my Writing Abundance workshop on Friday afternoon and it is open to the public, but if you are interested, hurry quick because we are filling up.  After the Writer's Loft, I am starting research for a new ghostwriting project.  I bought me a new digital voice recorder and I'm eager to get going. It is about a cat–what could be better?  Plus I'm meeting with two coaching clients–so far.  And I have tons of friends in Nashville who always get me into interesting things, like this time I'm going to visit a prison to meet a friend of a friend. 

I tell ya, this stuff doesn't happen to me in Portland, which is one reason I love travel so much.

But it is also hard.

Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining.  I love my life and I love traveling.  It is just that I get stressed out thinking about the logistics.  You know–getting to the airport on time, making connections, picking up the rental car, like that.  When, really, I rarely have trouble with logistics and if I do, it all seems to sort itself out (on my last trip home from Nashville, I just missed my connecting flight in Denver but got to have dinner with a wonderful fellow traveler who was also stranded).

And I worry that the orientation will be satisfying, that people will like my workshop, that the research will go well, that I'll be able to take good care of the dogs who live in the house I'm housesitting…and while I'm at it, I worry that I haven't heard from the agent who is reading my book, and that my blog traffic will go down when I'm not able to post as often while I'm gone, and that I've got manuscripts to read, and that my cats will miss me and be sad while I'm gone, to say nothing of my family.  Oh wait, never mind, they are all busy with their own lives that don't center around me, I forgot.

But you get the idea.  Sometimes I start worrying so much that I wonder why I do this, why I set myself up for trips that entail so much responsibility and so many things that could go wrong.  And then I realize that if I didn't do it, I'd be bored with myself.  If I didn't set myself up for challenges, I'd probably never leave the house.  And, despite the fact that I long for a couple of months at home without rushing off again, the truth is I love traveling and I most especially love traveling to Nashville. And any crises I have to endure along the way will be worth it in the end.

So off I go again.  

If you are in the Nashville area, come see me at the Loft this Friday and Saturday or email me and we'll set something up, okay?  And meanwhile, if anyone wants to chime in on their own travel worries, feel free.  Other people get stressed about travel, don't they?  Don't they?